$500 million? No! $3 BILLION! That’s $3BILLION! Comments New York State’s Underfunding of NYC Schools

New York’s Governor Cuomo has been big on words promising NOT TO FUND New York State schools and squeeze them to the maximum extent possible with layers of cuts and caps. After all – NOT FUNDING SCHOOLS is the most noble of endeavors – that along with declaring death penalties for those underfunded, high need schools that post low average test scores.

The Governor’s most recent anti-school-funding attack comes in response to NYC Mayoral Candidate Bill de Blasio’s campaign promise to push for universal preschool for city school children. At least as characterized in a New York Daily News editorial, the noble Governor is again set to dig in his heals against any additional spending on schools:

Laying claim to big ideas, Bill de Blasio has promised to deliver universal all-day pre-kindergarten, paid for by raising taxes on wealthy New Yorkers.

The attractive concept helped boost de Blasio to a commanding lead over Republican Joe Lhota, and is key to his education program. He calls universal pre-k “how we will start to close the achievement gap” between minority and white children.

Now is the time for voters to consider whether de Blasio has a prayer of fulfilling his pledge to provide services to 70,000 4-year-olds, along with after-school programs for middle-schoolers.

He’d need a half-billion dollars a year and has staked all on convincing Albany to okay a city income tax hike on high earners.

Bill, meet Andrew:

Gov. Cuomo says no.

In an interview with the Daily News Editorial Board, Cuomo made clear that he has no intention of pressing the Legislature to give de Blasio the $500 million in tax money he’s counting on.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/bill-rude-awakening-article-1.1487839#ixzz2i5NJcOJT

So, as the Daily News would characterize, the Governor is incensed that de Blasio would even consider the absurd possibility of needing an additional half a billion – that’s HALF A BILLION DOLLARS! to finance the frivolity of universal preschool.

Yeah… HALF A BILLION DOLLARS sure sounds like an obscene number. But let’s reflect for a moment on just how much money the state of New York, under the leadership of Governor Cuomo continues to come up short in financing the state school finance formula that was adopted back in 2007 in order to comply with a NY State High Court ruling that funding levels at that time for New York City were inadequate.

In 2012-13 and again in 2013-14 – New York State continues to short NYC on general state aid for schools to the tune of around 3 BILLION DOLLARS! Yeah… that’s 6 times the seemingly obscenely huge funding request for de Blasio’s pre-k proposal.

Let’s take a look. First, here’s a graph of the relationship between state aid shortfalls per pupil and the state’s own pupil need index. Larger circles represent larger (enrollment) districts. As can be seen here, in 2013-14, based on March/April 2013 adopted budget figures (state aid run worksheets), New York City – the bowling ball in the picture – is shorted by just under $3,000 per pupil in State Aid! That’s $3,000 PER PUPIL IN STATE AID!

Slide1Now, here’s how the funding formula that got the state out from under litigation is supposed to work.

A district’s target funding level per pupil is supposed to be a function of a) the foundation level of funding per pupil [appropriately inflated to represent current year costs], times b) the pupil need index for each district times c) the regional cost index for each district times d) the number of “aidable foundation pupil units” (which is an enrollment count including some adjustments for special education and other factors).

The adjusted foundation amount per pupil in NYC is $16,562 in 2013-14.

Bear in mind that even this figure is based on rigged analyses that severely underestimate actual needs and costs.

Then, the state determines the share of that figure to be covered by the district and balance to be covered by the state. The state share for NYC is supposed to be $7,006.

Take that figure times the total aidable foundation pupil units (TAFPU) and you’ve got….. $8.8 BILLION DOLLARS!


Slide2But alas, that’s far more than the state actually allocates to the City of New York through the foundation aid program it adopted to get out from under litigation brought by the city of New York – because funding was (and still is) inadequate!

I’m not even going to quibble (here and now) over the broader conception of “adequacy” involved, or the fact that the state concocted ways to reduce their estimated targets. The fact is that even though they set a low bar and further lowballed their funding targets, they’ve (meaning the Governor and Legislature) chosen to not even come close to funding those targets!

Instead, the state begins by freezing the underlying foundation aid level to past levels, setting NYC’s foundation aid level to just under $6.4 billion.

Yeah… sounds like a lot… but that’s already well short of what the city is supposed to get. And that’s just the first CUT.

Next, the state applies what it calls the Gap Elimination Adjustment (and then partially restores that cut, to make it seem like a gift), further reducing state aid to NYC down to just under $5.9 billion.

That’s a total state aid shortfall of nearly $3 billion! THAT’S $3 BILLION!!!!!!!!!!!  [with the figure fluctuating around $3 billion from year to year – the figure was higher for 2012-13]

So before the good Governor Cuomo decries the obscene half a billion dollar request presented by future mayor(?) de Blasio, it might be wise for him to reflect on the state’s own past and still relevant promises to New York City… promises that would rightfully (constitutionally… as per the high court decision in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State) drive an additional $3 Billion to NYC.

THAT’S $3 BILLION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!